Fijian Court Delays Seizure of $350M Russian Yacht
A court in Fiji has temporarily paused the seizure of the Russian-owned megayacht Amadea, which is moored in the port of Lautoka. The United States government believes that the Amadea belongs to sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the yacht's holding company claims that the beneficial owner is a different Russian businessman.
Kerimov has been under U.S. sanctions for a long time - since 2018 - but after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the U.S. government has greatly increased the resources assigned to the pursuit of sanctioned Russian assets. The United States has set up an interagency taskforce, "Project KleptoCapture," to seize real estate, yachts and funds connected to blacklisted members of the Russian elite.
An FBI team visited the yacht last week, and in a warrant filed with the Fijian court, agents claimed that they had found documents showing that Kerimov was linked to the vessel and had broken U.S. laws. The warrant claims that Kerimov "caused US dollar transactions for the operation and maintenance of the Amadea to be sent through US financial institutions," thereby violating the ban on his use of American banking services.
Lawyers for the vessel's holding company, Millemarin Investments, claim that the yacht is owned by former Rosneft executive Eduard Khudainatov. Khudainatov is not currently sanctioned, and if the vessel were his, it would not be possible to seize (unless he were added to the list). However, analysts question whether he has the wherewithal to buy and maintain megayachts, or whether he may effectively hold their ownership for other parties. He is also believed to be the formal owner of the far larger Scheherazade, a $700 million megayacht which has operational links to Putin himself.
For now, Amadea will have to remain in port. Fiji's High Court has granted a request from Millemarin Investments to stay the asset seizure while an appeal moves ahead.
The Amadea is a 350-foot motor yacht built in Germany in 2016. She is fitted with twin 5,800 horsepower engines, giving her a maximum speed of 20 knots and a maximum range of up to 8,000 nautical miles. She has eight suites for up to 16 guests and a crew of 25, and she is valued at about $350 million.
Top Image: Amadea, 2019 (Sukkoria / CC BY SA 4.0)